“The Shape of a Hero’s Soul: Exploring the Paradox of Fate and Free Will in Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls”
Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold. Editors Una McCormack and Regina Yung Lee. Liverpool University Press, 2020.
In Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion (2001), the hero Lupe dy Cazaril is informed of the following prophecy by Lady Ista: ‘[T]he gods might draw the curse back to them only through the will of a man who would lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion’ (360-361). Neither Cazaril nor Lady Ista are certain whether Cazaril is the man spoken about in the prophecy; neither can they comprehend how to break to curse, despite being told explicitly. How is it possible for a man to die three times? Prophecy does not feature in the stand-alone sequel, Paladin of Souls (2003), but the idea of fate is still implied: the hero, Lady Ista, initially defies the will of the gods. In this chapter, I argue that by having her hero and heroine make choices when faced with prophecy and destiny, Bujold effectively combines a paradox of fate and free will in order to create a narrative with open possibilities and interpretations. In both novels, Cazaril and Ista can only fulfil destiny by asserting their free will.
Note that this chapter is a variation of Chapter 1 in The Shape of Fantasy. While the chapter in The Shape of Fantasy is more focused on The Curse of Chalion and the structural implications of fate and free will, the chapter in this collection contrasts Cazaril and Ista from both books in order to reflect on two different approaches to free will, and adds an additional commentary on gender.
“The Evolution of the Arthurian Love Triangle”
Fantasy Art and Studies no 7 (2019)
The love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot has a profound effect on the Arthurian cycle. The adulterous relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere destroys the brotherhood of the Knights of the Round Table and, in doing so, brings about the fall of Arthur and Camelot. In this article I examine the evolution of Guinevere’s relationship with Arthur as a contrast to Lancelot, beginning with a brief summary of the canon before investigating a survey of recent rewritings. This article explores the evolution of these relationships, revealing larger implications for the reception of feminism, male-female romantic friendships, and male-male homosocial bonding in contemporary society.
“Imperialism as ‘Evil’ in Epic Fantasy: An Analysis of the Fantasy Works of Eddings, Jordan, Sanderson, and Brett”
Co-authored with Matthew J. Elder.
The Shadow Within – Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Edited by Francesca T. Barbini. Luna Press, 2019.
In recent Fantasy literature, the roles of characters, heroes and villains, while tied to the concepts of good and evil, have become more nuanced in a way that is critical of the genre’s problematic traditions. David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon series and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time are both wary of invading Empires, but in Othering that Evil, fail to recognise the inherent oppression in the Empires that their heroes build. Progressing forwards into the twenty-first century with Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris and Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle, more nuanced villains engage in a narrative arc that explores a justification of Empire and colonisation. This chapter explores how the evolution of evil becomes more nuanced through the decades as authors begin to write in a more globalized culturally aware space.
“Breaking Out of Eden: Science Fiction as a New Mythology in Robert J. Sawyer’s Writings”
Vector: The Critical Journal of the British Science Fiction Association No. 280 (published Summer 2015)
In December 1968 the Modern Language Association held a forum titled “Science Fiction: The New Mythology” which stimulated an academic debate that lasted several decades on the nature of science fiction as a new mythology. In this article I argue that SF functions as a mythology, not by replacing religious discourse with scientific theories (as others had proposed), but by combining theological and philosophical discourse. Even though our view of SF has changed in the last half century, SF’s function as a new mythology has not changed, as evidenced by Robert J. Sawyer’s writing. Sawyer, a contemporary Canadian science fiction novelist, has won many prestigious awards including the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. In this article I examine two of his award-wining novels, The Terminal Experiment (1995) and Mindscan (2005) in some detail as well as exploring several of his other works of fictions. Using Sawyer’s novels as examples, demonstrate that science fiction functions as mythology because, like mythology, it is a fictional narrative that dwells on the question of humankind and the universe. Moreover, I argue that, through the mythology of science fiction, scientific and religious language can coexist.
“Expelling a Monstrous Matriarchy: Casting Cersei Lannister as Abject in A Song of Ice and Fire”
Journal of European Popular Culture vol. 5, no. 2 (October 2014)
This article discusses George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (1999–), examining the character of Cersei Lannister and the reasons as to why she cannot gain power in a patriarchal system. The first part of the articles depict how Cersei gains power by creating what I term ‘political prostheses’, which serve as substitutions for her female body and create a masculine armouring through which she can take part in the political field and patriarchal society. As I demonstrate in the second part of this article, unlike the other mother characters, Cersei’s monstrosity comes about through the amalgamation of incompatible images of womanhood, which is complicated further by incest. Consequently, as I emphasize in the last part of this article, Cersei is expelled from society at the end of the last published book through a ritual that can be read as one of abjection.